A jewel in the Fall
Special to Fishing The California Alps: Bryan Roccucci
Northeastern California lakes offer some supreme late Fall and Winter fishing, and one of the best is Eagle Lake. Eagle Lake sits at 5100 feet with its South end buried up against a heavily wooded Sierra landscape while the North end of the lake is surrounded by a high desert back drop dotted with sage brush and juniper trees. Eagle Lake is the second largest natural lake in the state; it has approximately 100 miles of shore line, 22-24 thousand surface acres of water, and is the native home to the Eagle Lake Trout. The lake is located roughly 16 miles Northwest of the town of Susanville in Lassen County and is accessed by County Road A-1 (Eagle Lake Road) from Highway 36 on the South and by Highway 139 on the North. The Lake is comprised of three basins each with their own individual characteristics, and over all is relatively shallow. The Southern basin provides the lake’s deepest waters ranging from 40 to nearly 90 feet, however it also offers plenty shallow rocky points around the shore line as well as a few shallow spots in the middle. The Northern and middle basins are mostly flat and shallow with depths currently ranging from 5 to 15 feet. These basins have some rock structure on their shores but are mostly ringed by miles of tule beds.
The Eagle Lake Trout is a prize sought after by many sport anglers due to their hard fights and excellent taste. These fish, on average, are capable of attaining size and weight much greater than other trout found in lakes. Their incredible growth rates can be directly attributed to both their genetics and to the rich food supply found in Eagle Lake which is mainly comprised of, but not limited to, Tui Chubs, Leaches, Snails, Scuds and Freshwater Shrimp. Once thought to be extinct, the California Department of Fish and Game successfully brought the species back to a healthy population by way of an artificial spawning program on Pine Creek, the lake’s major tributary. Part of the management plan for these fish includes a special daily limit of two fish per person and a fishing season that closes to fishing December 31st and re-opens the Saturday proceeding Memorial Day each year. While Eagle Lake Trout are uniquely adapted to the lake’s highly alkaline waters they also do quite well in other bodies of water, and because of their value as a sport fish they have now been widely planted in lakes around the state.
The shallow nature of Eagle Lake can make things tough on some fishermen during Summer months when the water is warm. The trout seek out the deep areas in the Southern basin, many of which are spring fed, to relax in the cool water. Fall and Winter, on the other hand, offer a level playing field to anglers wishing to take aim at these fish with a variety of methods. With the water cooling the trout venture into the shallow water of the Northern basins of the lake as their metabolisms kick into high gear. What generally in sues is usually referred to as a “Feeding Frenzy”. Trout can be seen chasing chubs in the shallows, picking snails and leaches out of grass beds, and cruising the edges of the tules ready to ambush their next meal.
Shore Fishing: Eagle Lake, for a lake of its size, offers surprisingly good access to prime spots for shore fishermen. Areas such as the jetty at the south marina (which is also handicap accessible), the Youth Camp, Rocky Point, as well as numerous spots along County Road A-1 and Highway 139 are some of the popular ones. These areas will be easy to spot on a map of the lake. One of the most popular techniques is the crawler/ slip bobber combo. The slip bobber will allow you to adjust the length of your leader enabling you to present your bait at exactly the right depth. Many anglers choose to replace the night crawler below the bobber with a small marabou jig. Casting spoons and spinners from shore can also be productive in the Fall; these lures give off flash and vibration and many times imitate bait fish which is the preferred food for the trout. It is a good idea to bring a net when fishing from shore at Eagle Lake; it will help you land that fish and keep your feet out of the cold water.
Fly Fishing: Eagle Lake offers fair access to some prime fly fishing spots around the lake, most requiring a short walk in. Access to some of the best water is made easier with the use of a float tube or pontoon style craft but for unlimited access to all the premium locations on the lake a boat is a must. During the fall the fly fishing can be red hot in places like the Airport, Cinder Pits, Pelican Point, and Shrimp Island. The action is not limited to these “big name” spots, Eagle Lake has literally hundreds of small obscure points and bays that hold food and attract trout. The goal is to find and target feeding fish using flies that imitate their natural food. Flies such as Wooly Worms and Buggers, leaches, and minnow patterns seem to work well when fished with a slow swimming motion on either floating or sinking line depending on the situation. Another technique that can produce excellent results (especially when the trout are feeding on shrimp in the rocks) is to fish a small nymph under a strike indicator. Your color selection for flies should include orange, brown, cinnamon, black and olive. Light leaders and tippits will help in fooling wary fish and will also test your angling skills when you hook that trophy.
Boat Fishing: Boat fishermen can be divided into two categories; still fishermen and trollers. Still fishing from a boat employs many of the same techniques as shore fishing. Crawlers or jigs under bobbers fished in and around the tules or off of the rocky points will generally produce. Trollers tend to use bait or artificials that resemble the natural food in the lake. Offerings such as night crawlers, grubs, spinners, and spoons when trolled often resemble Tui Chubs and leaches. The use of scents such as Pro Cure’s Trophy Trout and Freshwater Shrimp Oil become very important when trolling artificial lures. Fish targeted by trollers in the Fall are in shallow water of 10 feet or less, it is extremely important to troll your offerings at least 150 feet behind the boat in order to disassociate your bait with noise from your boat and motor. Equipment such as lead core line, downriggers, and planer boards will help you vary and fine tune your presentations for maximum results.
A word of caution: because Eagle Lake is a natural lake it is subject to natural water fluctuations causing the lake level to rise and fall. Some of the many underwater obstacles that pose a danger to boaters are buoyed, however many are not and usually by late October the hazard buoys have been removed for the winter. Please be careful.
About the author:
Bryan Roccucci is a full time professional fishing guide and operator of Big Daddy’s Guide Service. Bryan specializes in year round trophy trout fishing while emphasizing light tackle fishing techniques on Lake Almanor (Jan.-May), Lake Davis (May - June), Bucks Lake (June – Sept.), Eagle Lake (Sept. – Dec.) To book a Fall trip on Eagle Lake or any of the other waters fished by Bryan or for more information please visit www.bigdaddyfishing.com or call (530) 283-4103.
Copyright © 2007 Bryan Roccucci All Rights Reserved